alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Old Friends

The plan for Saturday was to spend some time with Mom to celebrate a late Mother's Day. We considered going to a local park and enjoying the outdoors. But some old friends unexpectedly passed through town, and our plans changed.

The gift The Gryphon and I sent her had arrived: a garden bench/kneeler. She's been doing a lot of gardening lately, so I figured she'd find it useful.

While she said she doesn't do a lot of kneeling when she gardens, she liked that it was sturdy and she could use it to push herself up from a seated position.

Our plans changed when my Mom got a call from some old family friends, Uncle Squash and Aunt Corn. We had always called them aunt and uncle growing up, and their children had nicknamed my parents Uncle Broccoli and Aunt Bean, so a vegetable theme seems appropriate. Uncle Squash is a local historian, specializing in Native American culture, and every year he grows a garden incorporating what he calls the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash.

Uncle Squash's brother, a Vietnam Vet, was coming through town. He and his wife had attended a motorcycle rally to benefit the upkeep of the Vietnam War Memorial. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen them, but I'm pretty sure I was a teenager. So there was no question we'd take the opportunity to see him and his wife in person. My dad would also be coming, separately, and I was supposed to pick up some food as his contribution.

I looked through some recipes on Weight Watchers Online and picked out a mesclun salad with grapefruit and feta cheese. Mom, on the other hand, prepared a coconut chicken dish from a magazine called Cooking Light. I picked up some ingredients for us on the way to her house, stopping first at my favorite natural food store.

Natural Food Store (Click to enlarge)

The Natural Food Store

I haven't been to it for years, and I love that place. It's small but crammed full of vitamins and supplements, bulk spices, and earth-friendly foods and products, all lovingly selected by the owner, who hasn't changed a bit in 20 years. On the spur of the moment, I added some hummus and blue corn chips, which could be Dad's contribution. I stopped at a grocery store afterwards to get the produce.

At Mom's place, we assembled our goodies. I made my salad in a big plastic container, courtesy of Mom. She created the marinade for the chicken, cut it into portions and let it marinate in two plastic containers. She also got the coconut dipping mixture ready, but she said she'd wait to cook it until we arrived, transporting the food in a cold chest.

I was a little surprised when The Vietnam Vet recognized me right away and gave me a big hug. I'd never been as close to him as I am to Aunt Corn and Uncle Squash, simply because we didn't see him very often growing up. He was a career military man, and he and his family lived all over the world. Still, if Uncle Squash was honorary family, that makes him honorary extended family.

Mom and I headed straight for the kitchen to complete our dishes. In my case, this involved simply adding the feta cheese. Mom's process was more complex. I helped her by keeping her supplied with the coconut mixture she was using to coat the chicken. Once she'd lined the chicken onto baking sheets, I put it in the oven and set the timer. In addition, I cleaned up as we went.

I'm not exactly sure how long it took, but three trays cooked for six minutes each, plus the preparation time. So I'd say the first half hour of our visit was consumed with chicken preparation and cooking. I've learned it's best to have your dish ready to go (or ready to place in the oven) when you arrive at a social event, but Mom didn't seem to mind the extra work. Aunt Corn helped us out, as well as putting out some snacks, such as cheese and crackers, plus the hummus and chips, for those who were waiting.

When the chicken was ready, we announced the food was served. Aunt Corn had made a chili dish in a crock pot. There was also my salad, along with a berry parfait Aunt Corn had made. We all loaded up plastic trays that Aunt Corn jokingly calls "troughs," and everybody moved out to the front porch, since it was a pleasant day.

That's where I met Red and Henry, The Vietnam Vet's two dogs. Both are Dachshunds, but Henry is a wire-haired variety, while Red is short-haired. Henry is the milder of the two, while Red is high-strung, always barking at strange noises. They both exercised their begging skills, but were denied, since The Vietnam Vet told us they have sensitive tummies.

Red begs for food (Click to enlarge)

Henry (Click to enlarge)

The dogs were so affectionate and well-behaved that they made the rounds of laps, giving everyone kisses and sometimes falling asleep in people's arms.

Dad with Henry (Click to enlarge)

Dad gets a kiss from Henry

Alyce with Henry (Click to enlarge)

I hold Henry, who seems a little freaked by the camera

Vietnam Vet with dogs (Click to enlarge)

The Vietnam Vet holds Henry and Red

After we ate, I helped The Vietnam Vet's wife take the doggies out in the yard. I was walking Henry, whose long coat meant he had little tolerance for the sun. He made a beeline for any available shade, even standing in the shade formed by Uncle Squash as he showed me his garden, which will feature potatoes, corn, beans, and squash (of course). The garden also includes some funky looking asparagus.

Asparagus (Click to enlarge)

Uncle Squash wanted to walk to the local convenience store to pick up some batteries for the smoke alarm, which had started beeping. I walked with him, and we talked about writing and publishing. He's self-published a number of books on Native American history and culture. Recently, his printer went under, so I promised I'd send him info on a book I've been reading about self-publishing.

I told him about My Wedding, My Way: Real Women, Real Weddings, Real Budgets. He said it sounded like a good idea. This only inspired me to start earnestly on work again.

We had a lot of relaxing conversation. The Vietnam Vet filled us in on his kids, whom I haven't seen for decades. We also swapped pet stories.

Table talk (Click to enlarge)

(from left) Aunt Corn, The Vietnam Vet's Wife and Mom chat.

Inside, Uncle Squash showed Mom some interesting potatoes he plans to plant, which are native varieties he gets from a special seed company. He gave my mom a few to plant, as well as some squash seeds.

Uncle Squash (Click to enlarge)

Uncle Squash talks about the potatoes he's planting.

Unearthly potato (Click to enlarge)

This potato has an almost unearthly look to it.

The batteries, meanwhile, were sitting on the table. Uncle Squash had used one in the smoke detector and left the others loose. While Mom was looking at the potatoes, she accidentally pushed two together, so that they connected. By the time she noticed it, one of them was burning hot. Uncle Squash separated them before they could explode. That could have been an ugly footnote to the pleasant afternoon.

Mom left before us, but Dad and I only stayed about an hour or so later. As we left, Dad complimented The Vietnam Vet's car, and the Vet opened his trunk to show us his motorcycle: a plushie motorcycle. We got a chuckle out of that. In my memories, he's always been an affable guy. It's hard to believe he's seen as much action in the military as he has.

I stopped by Mom's house on the way back. In addition to talking to her more, I wanted to look through old photos to find one my sister and I could recreate for a Web site my sister discovered, Color War 2008. It's sort of a then and now photography challenge where people recreate old photos.

Surprisingly, I didn't find many usable photos of my sister and I together, even though I went through the entire trunk. It occurred to me that I was the one who took many of the family photos, and I'd kept all the photos I took. I'll go through my archives soon and see what else I can find.

I did manage to convince Mom to lend me my baby album, so I can scan in all the pages and make myself a facsimile. I agree that it's her keepsake, though, and she should be allowed to keep it.

When I returned to Dad's place, he was watching a doo-wop concert on PBS, featuring a number of acts singing their biggest hits. A lot of them sounded just as good as they had back in the day, which is amazing, since many of them didn't pursue a musical career.

I found the outfits amusing, since they were often extravagantly colorful. Do not adjust your set: Little Anthony and the Imperials are wearing salmon-colored suits with sequins and swirls.

Little Anthony and the Imperials (Click to enlarge)

That night, the last of my visit, I dreamt Technicolor dreams.

Lap dogs are good conversation pieces.

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Tags: aunt corn, dad, family, friends, gryphon, mom, pets, photos, una, uncle squash, vietnam vet

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